Hunting Dogs photo

The building behind this bronze pointer is not a palatial home. It is, in fact, a palatial dog kennel–home to some 40 English pointers, labs, and even a few Boykin spaniels that belong to T. Boone Pickens, a legendary businessman and utterly obsessed quail hunter.

Last week I got the rare opportunity to spend some time with Pickens at his incredible 68,000-acre (Yes, that’s over 100 square miles…) Texas panhandle ranch, Mesa Vista. If you’re a quail hunter, you’ve probably heard of Mesa Vista. Starting with an initial purchase of 2,900 acres of overgrazed, worn-out Roberts County, Texas rangeland, Pickens has since tirelessly built Mesa Vista into perhaps the finest wild bobwhite quail hunting spot on earth. It is a truly remarkable place, and as a lover of all things quail, it was a high honor just to visit the place, much less talk quail hunting and dogs with the man himself.

Mesa Vista is a very busy place during quail season, and at over a hundred sections of land, it stands to reason that you need a lot of dog power to cover it. And man, does this place holds some dog power. Texas is pointer country, and a rotating cast of big-running English pointers get the primary pointing duties, while a mix of labs and Boykins are used as non-slip retrievers on quail hunts, and as flushers when Pickens’ guests would rather hunt pheasants.

The kennel building itself is huge, with a double row of runs on either side. It was easily the nicest and most impressive kennel building I’ve ever seen. In fact, seeing as how the digs were much, much nicer than anything I had in college, I asked Pickens’ people if I could just move in, seeing as how there were a few empty runs and plenty of space. They refused, of course. My pedigree wasn’t impressive enough, nor was I well-trained or talented enough to deserve a spot on Pickens’ dog string. You win some, you lose some…

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite dog-related “Booneisms” (Pickens is famous for his pithy comments) from the weekend. Keep in mind that the kennel isn’t a breeding operation. The ranch gets most of its dogs already trained, either purchased from trainers across the nation or as gifts, and this is what Pickens relayed to me in regard to the gifting of bird dogs:

“If someone ever offers you a bird dog, don’t take it. You wouldn’t just give someone a bird dog that was actually worth a damn, would you? Hell no, you’d keep it yourself, so why would someone give one to you?” Pickens then added, with a wry smile, “of course, people give me some pretty nice bird dogs these days.”

That makes perfect sense to me: if you’re going to give a billionaire a bird dog, you better make pretty damn sure it’s a good one…